Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality…

Live from the Roasterie: Kenneth Thomas**: Moving the Goal Posts on ACA Success: “Cliff Asness writes in the WSJ:

“That more people would be insured was never in dispute. If you mandate that people buy something, penalize them if they don’t and give it away to some, more people will end up with it. The proper response to this is: Duh….”
Yglesias… [gave] a number of examples of conservatives who predicted there would be no reduction in the number of uninsured Americans…. Jonathan Chait… piles on more… goes further. Asness wrote that a critical issue was ‘how many people covered by ObamaCare were previously uninsured.’ You can probably guess Chait’s answer: “Well, that’s why you measure the net number of uninsured people, not just the gross expansion of coverage under Obamacare….”
Asness responded to Chait. Here is where the goal post move comes in: “In contrast the rise in coverage is heralded by a myriad of Obamacare supporters as one of two major pieces of proof the law is working. But, how can something we knew before the fact be proof of anything?”
Did you catch that? If we predict that something good will happen as a result of a new law, and that good thing happens, it doesn’t count as proof that the law was good…. Somebody wake these people up.

The astonishing thing to me is that it never occurs to Asness to undertake any benefit-cost analysis of the ACA. Coverage has gone up. Costs have not increased. No possible counterfactual suggests that the delta in costs relative to any no-ACA path has been inordinate. If you don’t like the ACA and are intellectually coherent, it is because:

  • You think getting insurance to the previously un- and underinsured at a reasonable cost is a bad thing.
  • You think the ACA substituted for legislation that would have established a better system (i.e., single-payer).

Why not?

Originally published at